2010 Audi S4

The Audi S4, now in its 7th iteration, has been a perennial performance favorite of those who like the understated looks coupled with all-weather performance. And since the original, the S4 has offered a unique tuning platform; while the B6 and B7 were difficult to extract extra performance out of, the other generations have offered forced induction out of the box that allows for generous tuning potential for a real sleeper supercar slayer. 1,000 horsepower isn’t unheard of out of the legendary inline-5, but power numbers exceeding 400 seem to be almost commonplace for the C4 and B5 S4s. So when Audi launched the supercharged V6 model in 2009, the return to a smaller displacement forced induction powerplant immediately had me thinking that it wouldn’t be long until tuned versions appeared. The trick in buying a S4, though, is and always has been managing to find an unmodified one that is well cared for but also affordable. After all, for under $10,000 you can run out and grab any one of the first three generations – however, the less you spend up front, the more likely you’ll be dishing out of pocket in the future it seems. But as we get towards the newer generation of B8 you can get a car that is still quite new for a substantial discount over the original purchase price without (generally) the fears of abuse, neglect and immediate repairs that need to be undertaken. Today’s example has the right ingredients; mileage is in check, it’s a manual, and it’s a neat color. But is it the right one to get?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 Audi S4 on eBay

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2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

It feels like the W211 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG is flying under the radar a little. Well, at least for now. Maybe it’s their subtle looks or lack of screaming exhaust note, but then again, that was the entire point when this car was new. Keep in mind, this was right when the horsepower wars started between Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, which ultimately prompted V10s in both the E60 M5 and C6 S6. Looking back now, the E60 M5 is basically considered radioactive in terms of reliability, and people seem not to want to sign up for an aging Lamborghini-esque V10 that requires carbon cleaning and new intake flaps every so often. That leaves the E55, the car with a big supercharger on it, as the most reasonable example to own out of the three. I think we set the bar pretty low here.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG on eBay

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Euro-Spec 24k-Mile 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Jealousy.

I still remember the moment as the wave of envy set over me. A struggling college student, I had tried hard to balance my love of cars with the multiple part-time jobs I fit in between classes. Ultimately, cars probably came before some things they should have, but still fell staunchly behind the realities of life. Rent. Tutition. Books. Utilites. FOOD. These necessities multiplied themselves together over the years, grasping at my meager weekly paycheck more rapidly than I could deposit it in the bank. Trips to the pump were always metered; weeks went by holding breath at every turn of the key, praying for a safe completion of circuit. And when you own a ’84 Volkswagen that sat in a driveway not running for decade rotting away before you resurrected it, often your dreams of a trouble-free commute are unrealized.

As a result of my shoestring budget, I often turned to a friend to help with mechanical work that my GTI often needed. He’d stop by my house after work and wrench for a bit, or I’d drive it by his place for a replacement part or ten. He also had a A1 – a sweet special edition Cabriolet from ’85 which he had spent years tricking out. But on one of these repair stops, he introduced me to his new toy.

It was 1998 and he had picked up a ’90 Corrado G60. He had picked it up cheap, too, as they often broke even when pretty new. Two things struck me about this car. Though it was only 6 years newer than my GTI, it might as well have been a spaceship. The two shared nothing in common outside of the badge. My pyrite-in-the-rough GTI was rusty and not so trusty. Horrible build quality meant things regularly broke, or fell off, or rusted off; often, the trifecta struck. It was a square slowly-deteriorating block of iron oxide in a rounded-off world. In comparison, the Corrado looked well-built, felt modern, was comfortable, had air conditioning and electronic items that…well, functioned, and even had paint all in one color. But the other thing that struck me was just how tired and old that Corrado already felt in 1998. I rarely buy cars that are newer than 10 years old, but this Corrado felt a lot more than that already. Perhaps that was because the VR6 model had so quickly replaced it. Or perhaps it was because I was still excited for new cars to launch in 1998. Looking back, though, my initial impressions of the Corrado G60 still hold true. But am I still jealous that I didn’t have one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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2005 BMW M3 Dinan S3-R Competition Package Individual

You and a million plus of your internet friends love the E46 M3. With a high-revving naturally-aspirated inline-6, near perfect weight distribution and timeless looks, how could you not? So how to stand apart from the crowd? Well, this ’05 might be just the right ticket. First, you’d want to source one of the elusive BMW Individual examples. Like Porsche’s Paint to Sample, these were custom-ordered Ms with near limitless options, and the E46 was the first to really exploit this before it was the popular trend. 58 Coupes were optioned in E36-spec Estoril Blue Metallic for the U.S. market, and admittedly it looks great on the newer generation too. This one goes one step farther with M Texture Anthracite Alcantara that is very infrequently seen in the modern Ms. Not done yet, it was opted with a 6-speed manual to sooth the Internet’s fears. For good measure the ZCP Competition Package was ticked on the order sheet. And to scare everything else on the road, it was then sent to Dinan where just about every conceivable option was fit. The resultant supercharged S3-R package was good for 462 horsepower. The seller describes this combination as a unicorn, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that assessment.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 BMW M3 Dinan S3-R Competition Package Individual on eBay

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Faded Glory: Autotech Supercharged 2.0 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco

Tuner cars – especially those from the 1980s – seem to have lived a hard life. Like Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, they were stars that burned ever-so-bright in the limelight of the Reagan era. Tyrell said to Batty, “You were made as well as we could make you”. “But not to last”, quipped Batty – a seemingly appropriate exchange when considering these cars. Few have survived unscathed, but with a renewed appreciation for period-correct pieces from the 80s cars like today’s example have a second lease on life.

So what do we have? Well, it’s the penultimate year of the first generation Scirocco. Along the way this genius of Giugiaro received a heart transplant to a 2.0, and then a AutoTech supercharger for good measure. But that’s just the headline grabbers of a lot of neat additions to this faded front-driver:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

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2000 BMW 540i Sport Touring Dinan Supercharged

Update 10/18/19: This super supercharged 540iT sold for $11,100. Deal!

BMW’s continual refusal to bring the most powerful form of its its Touring/Sports Wagon historical lineup has been, as a 5-door enthusiast, pretty frustrating. That’s left Audi in the 2000s and Mercedes-Benz more recently to thoroughly dominate fast 5-doors, with the brief Cadillac interloper. But just because you couldn’t get an M5 Touring over here didn’t mean you couldn’t at least get M performance.

For that, though, you had to turn to fabled California tuner Dinan. No stranger on these pages, Dinan’s well-thought mods and clean execution earned his company a place in the revered showrooms of new BMWs. Cheap? Certainly not. Just the supercharger alone on this particular 540i was $16,000. But you get what you pay for, and the result when Dinan blew on the M62 was a claimed 400 horsepower. So this 540iT has the chops to back up its M5 looks:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 BMW 540i Sport Touring Dinan Supercharged on eBay

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1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Update 10/18/19: This Corrado sold for $5,650.

While the second-generation Scirocco was a re-body of the first-generation chassis with some upgrades, when it came to the end of the 80s and the launch of a new sporty Volkswagen, they turned toanother antiquated chassis. Prepared for the 1990 model year, the A2 chassis was already the best part of 7 years old and not the most refined unit out there. Despite this, plans moved ahead at cash-strapped VW to produce two new models that were adaptations of the A2 chassis.

The result was the third generation Passat and the sporty Karmann-built Corrado. The design was more VAG evolution than revolution; in many ways, the Corrados profile and several aspects mimicked the upscale Audi products. Volkswagen again went to the tried-and-true Operation Copy Giugiaro plan that worked with the Scirocco. It looks like a shorter, chunkier Audi Coupe GT to me especially in its original G60 supercharged guise. While the GTI went to the 2.0 16V and slick BBS wheels making an instant classic, Volkswagen relied on the G-Ladder supercharger that was seen in the European Golf Rallye and G60 GTI for the motivation for the Corrado. But the Corrado wasnt made to challenge its siblings; it was aimed at the 944 crowd, replacing the 924S as a Poor Mans Porsche rather than just an expensive GTI alternative.

Ostensibly, this made it the top-trump at Volkswagen, what with 160 horsepower and good torque. But the heavy weight and complicated nature of the model meant that the GTI retained greater appeal. It seemed as though Volkswagen hit a home run when they finally slotted the even more potent and better sounding VR6 into the Corrado for 1992, relegating the supercharged model to obsolescence and obscurity. This model was thoroughly overshadowed by the VR6 and GTI, so values sunk quickly. Often they landed in the hands of those not able to afford the expensive repairs. And, no surprise, the result is that finding clean G60s is pretty tough today – but they don’t get much cleaner than this Alpine White one:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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2014 Audi SQ5

The SUV movement is here and it probably isn’t going anywhere. More and more automakers are pouring the majority of these resources into SUVs and their variants because as wrong or as right people are, they want them and they buy them. Thankfully the Germans have blessed us with some really fun SUVs that won’t suck all the soul out of us as drivers and one of those is the Audi SQ5. Launched in the US market in 2014, the SQ5 borrows the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 from the S4, adds a touch more horsepower and torque, and somehow manages to get this baby buggy to 60 mph in around 5 seconds. You also got 20″ or 21″ wheels, some white-faced gauges, brushed aluminum trim everywhere, and some other little touches. All in all, not a bad package for around $60,000 new. Well, these early SQ5s are now five years old and have started to “temptingly affordable” statue. How much?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2014 Audi SQ5 on eBay

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2005 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG

Now that I’ve exhausted all of the nice Mercedes-Benz R129s currently on the market, I wanted to wander over to the R230 to see how things are going with the first SL with a folding hard top. The R230 was a giant leap forward in terms of styling and technology compared to the R129 as now the normally boxy and square roadster suddenly didn’t have a flat edge on the entire car. It was what needed to be done to keep the car relevant in the new millennium with the legacy buyers coming back as well as capture the hearts of all the new money buyers that wanted a sleek roadster that didn’t feel like an old man or woman’s car that was driven to the country club on a Sunday morning to play golf. It is tough to stay that Mercedes didn’t succeed in that as even now that the R230 is 17 years-old, it still doesn’t look or feel that age. Sure, some of the tech is dated, but getting in of these cars doesn’t scream ”this car can legally buy cigarettes next year” old.

Of course, with the introduction of the SL500 and V12 SL600 in the R230, Mercedes stepped up their game in the US market by giving customers the SL55 AMG that was a hit as soon as they landed on dealer lots. A 0-60 time in 4.4 seconds thanks to 493 horsepower and 520 lb⋅ft of torque, the SL55 wore the crowd of the fastest automatic transmission car in the world for a short time before the big brother SLR came on to the scene in 2003. The SL55 continued to be the model of choice over the more expensive V12 SL600 until it was replaced by the SL63 in 2008. The SL65 AMG joined the lineup in 2005 with its twin-turbocharged V12 making an insane 604 horsepower and 738 lb⋅ft of torque, but also carried a price tag starting at $185,000. Needless to say, the SL55 remained the best bang for the buck at a still very expensive $115,000, but was a bargain compared to competitors Ferrari 360 and Aston Martin’s DB7 Volante in terms of both purchase price and cost of running. Today, the SL55 sits in that no man’s land of not old enough to be considered a classic and not modern enough to be considered by people who want to be impressed by a bunch of tech. Add in the fact that the running costs can scare some people off, a Corvette seems like a much better buy for the convertible crowd who take Sunday cruises to the Daily Queen. What does that mean for prices on these beasts? Very good things if you are willing to commit to owning one. At least this example up for sale in North Carolina proves that.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG on eBay

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Green Hell: 2008 BMW M3

We’re on a bit of a modified car kick, so I wanted to continue with a superlative BMW. In this case, it’s not a classically modified example, but rather a very recent one. For a long time, modifying cars was relatively easy – they came from the factory usually in a pretty tame form with a lot of potential – from aerodynamic tweaks to suspension overhauls and, of course, more power. But when you consider the E9X BMW M3, you have to really wonder if an aftermarket company could improve upon the design. After all, with the S65 4.0 V8 that revs to 8,400 RPMs and generates nearly 420 horsepower in completely stock form, how much better could you really make it?

That hasn’t stopped companies from trying, and relative unknown IND took on the task of making a Nürburgring-inspired E92 M3 the ultimate dual purpose street/track weapon. Did they succeed, and how have the mods held up?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW M3 on eBay

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